United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
JOSE A. REAS-MENDEZ, Plaintiff,
GARY BOUGHTON, Defendants.
WILLIAM M. CONLEY District Judge.
plaintiff Jose A. Reas-Mendez brings this lawsuit under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his Eighth Amendment rights
have been violated because a chunk of caulk fell from the
wall of his cell and hit him, and then after receiving
treatment, he was placed back in that cell. His amended
complaint is now ready for screening under 28 U.S.C. §
1915A. Reas-Mendez's complaint does not name proper
defendants, nor does it provide sufficient detail to state a
claim, but he will be permitted the opportunity to amend his
complaint to correct the deficiencies described below.
is currently incarcerated at Stanley Correctional Institution
(“SCI”), but the incidents related to his
complaint occurred when he was incarcerated at the Wisconsin
Secure Program Facility (“WSFP”), located in
Boscobel, Wisconsin. He names two WSPF employees as
defendants: Gary Boughton, the warden, and Jerome Sweeney,
the security director.
October 30, 2014, plaintiff was injured in his cell. He had
been lying down when a large piece of caulk fell from the
wall striking him over his left eye on the forehead. It
briefly knocked him unconscious and caused a laceration on
pushed the emergency call button in his cell. Sergeant
Jaworski answered, and directed Officer Gilardi to report to
Reas-Mendez's cell. Reas-Mendez told Gilardi what
happened, and Officer Gilardi found the 4-inch piece of caulk
that had fallen. Reas-Mendez was then taken to the health
services unit (“HSU”). Sergeant Lange took
pictures of his face, his cell and the piece of caulk. While
at HSU, Reas-Mendez's left eye was irrigated, the
abrasion above his left eye was cleaned and antiseptic cream
and bandages were applied. He received no follow-up
he received treatment, Reas-Mendez was escorted back to his
cell, but apparently nothing had been done by WSPF staff to
ensure that it was safe for occupancy. He has not alleged
that he suffered any subsequent injuries in his cell, nor has
he described the state of his cell when he returned to it.
Nonetheless, on November 10, 2014, Reas-Mendez filed two
complaints about the fact that he was placed back in an
unsafe cell after he was injured, and those complaints were
claims that the defendants violated his rights under the
Eighth Amendment, which prohibits “punishment”
that is “cruel and unusual, ” and imposes a duty
on prison officials to provide “humane conditions of
confinement” by ensuring that inmates receive adequate
food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). Prison officials also
must ensure that “reasonable measures” are taken
to guarantee inmate safety and prevent harm. Id. To
state an Eighth Amendment claim based on a failure to prevent
harm, an inmate must demonstrate that (1) the harm that
befell the prisoner was objectively, sufficiently serious and
a substantial risk to his health or safety; and (2) the
individual defendants were deliberately indifferent to that
risk. Id.; see also, e.g., Collins v.
Seeman, 462 F.3d 757, 760 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing
Matos ex. Rel. Matos v. O'Sullivan, 335 F.3d
553, 556 (7th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted)).
complaint suffers from two potentially fatal issues. First,
plaintiff has not properly named any defendants. Personal
participation is a general requirement to liability for a
§ 1983 claim. Alejo v. Heller, 328 F.3d 930,
936 (7th Cir. 2003) (“A plaintiff bringing a civil
rights action [under § 1983] must prove that the
defendant personally participated in or caused the
unconstitutional actions.”). The named defendants,
Boughton and Sweeney, were not involved in responding to or
treating plaintiff's injury, nor were they involved in
the decisions about his cell placement. In fact, plaintiff
does not allege that they even knew about this incident.
Although supervisors may be held liable for policies over
which they have control, plaintiff is not challenging any
WSPF policy; he is challenging the fact that he was placed in
an allegedly unsafe cell. See Lanigan v. Village of East
Hazel Crest, Ill., 110 F.3d 467, 477 (7th Cir. 1997)
(supervisor may be liable if he knows about and approves of
conduct); see also City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris,
489 U.S. 378, 388 (1989) (supervisor may be held liable if he
had control over deficient training or flawed policies).
Accordingly, Boughton and Sweeney will be dismissed. However,
plaintiff does include the names of other WSPF staff involved
in his treatment. If they or other WSPF employees were
involved in the decision to return him to his same cell,
perhaps a claim could be alleged against them.
plaintiff may amend his complaint to name those individuals
second problem with plaintiff's complaint is even more
fundamental: he does not allege that, before the piece of
caulk fell, anyone knew that his cell was in such a
state of disrepair that a piece of caulk might fall on him.
Thus, he has no Eighth Amendment claim as to the actual
injury that he suffered because he does not allege that any
defendant knew his cell was unreasonably dangerous. The same
is true as to his claim that he should not have been returned
to his cell following his injury. Although at that point,
some members of WSPF staff obviously knew that caulk had
fallen from the ceiling of his cell, plaintiff has not
alleged sufficient facts to infer they knew his cell was so
unsafe after the caulk fell that it was not suitable
for occupancy. Without more details about the actual state of
his cell when he was returned to it (such as sharp edges,
cracks, or other instances where other piece of the wall or
ceiling fell), the court cannot infer that plaintiff was
returned to an unreasonably dangerous living environment
following his injury. If plaintiff chooses to amend his
complaint, it will be necessary for him to specify that any
named defendant knew that his cell was unsafe for occupancy
when he was returned to it after his injury.
IT IS ORDERED that:
Plaintiff Jose Reas-Mendez may have until June 2, 2017, to
amend his complaint to correct the ...